Sunday, September 11, 2011


Unless you've been living under a rock recently, you're quite well informed that today is (was) the 10th anniversary of the towers coming down. It's hard to believe it's been 10 years already. I arrived at work this morning JUST in time for the live "moment of silence" at Ground Zero at 8:46am NY time. I stood there alone in our break room with my head down, pondering the unfathomable events of a decade ago.

I was only 3 when Kennedy was assassinated, so I don't have any recollection of that event. However, I think 9/11 is and always will be a moment like that, where everybody will remember where they were and what they were doing when it happened.

Jeannie and I were in Hawaii, having JUST moved there. I had been in NYC just 2 weeks prior, as Sarah (Jeannie's little sister) who lives in Manhattan had been accepted to the Masters program at Yale, and John (Jeannie's twin brother) and I drove up the coast from Virginia and helped move her from the Manhattan  apartment to New Haven Ct. for the fall semester.

Jeannie and I had visited her sister in the city just a year prior. We stayed there in Manhattan for nearly a week in a friends apartment, living the NYC life. That meant no car, as ours was parked in a garage the entire week and we took trains everywhere. Also we ate every meal out...breakfast was bagels and coffee in the shop just downstairs. Lunch was somewhere in the city as we were out and about playing tourist every single day. We caught Les Miserabes on Broadway. During out stay I took Jeannie and Sarah to the most amazing restaurant I've ever been to: Windows on the World in the WTC. I can't remember exactly what floor it was on, but it was VERY near the top...something like the 112th. The square bldg had a rotating outer circle that went from edge to edge in the building. All the tables were arranged on that outer circle. So during the course of dinner you slowly circled around the building getting a most AMAZING view of the city at night...there was the Chrysler bldg, the Empire State bldg, and the Statue of Liberty among other sites. I recall as we first stepped up into the main foyer from the subway below thinking how HUGE the room was. Huge beyond anything I'd ever seen or imagined. There was no support beams on the inside, as the outer skin of the bldg WAS the support. I also remember stepping outside looking up, and being completely overwhelmed that humans could build something SO immense. It just seemed impossible that a building could be SO BIG! The scale was unbelievable!

Anyway, I digress. On that horrible morning 10 years ago, we were living in a flea-bag rental furnished appt (more of a room than an appt actually) in Hawaii (on the island of Oahu) as we had just moved to the Islands. Jeannie woke me up saying I HAD to see this. So I crawled out of bed and there on TV was video of the north tower burning. At that time the media had no idea it was a jetliner, and I think everybody assumed it was some dumb private plane that got too close and hit the tower. At that very moment I don't think ANYBODY had any concept of a terror attack. As we watched, suddenly there was a blur and ka-BLOOIE! The south tower was hit! The news slowed down the video and it plainly showed  the jet airliner crashing into it, with the huge explosion blowing right thru the bldg and out the other side. I think it was at THAT very moment I realized that the world had just been changed irrecoverably.

Like everybody else with the TV on, we sat riveted watching it burn, having NO inkling that they would collapse. It just never occurred to me. Our video in Hawaii was tape delayed (as we were watching it around 9am local time, which was around 5 hours later in NY) and all the events had already been played out, but we were seeing it as if it were live. However, the media had removed the video about the jumpers. I didn't know about them until later, unlike those that had watched it live in the mainland. Having been on the very high floors and pressing my nose against a window looking down, I can tell you that the thought of launching myself out a window would be beyond anything I could comprehend. So to attempt to imagine the horrid situation faced by those trapped on the high floors, where jumping was your BEST option....well, that still makes me want to cry.

And then suddenly, the south tower fell. I vividly recall seeing it crash down seemingly in slow-motion. I remember thinking "OH MY GOD! IT'S FALLING!" It was like a waterfall or something, as the awesome destructive power of a gazillion bajillion tons of material started pile-driving it's way down. The dust plume billowing out like it was from a volcanic eruption. The video from on the streets as said dust plume blew like a storm thru the streets. People emerging from the dust. I was in shock watching it from 4 thousand miles away, so how on earth did THEY feel? I think denial was common...thinking no, it didn't really happen. It can't have happened. And then over the course of the day the REST of the story emerged. The Pentagon strike. And the failed attempt with United flt 93 that the passengers bravely thwarted in Pennsylvania.

Once again I'm all choked up thinking of all the heroic stories that emerged. The NYFD and NYPD running INTO the scene, the people helping each other escape, sometimes at GREAT peril. And the people on the United flight that didn't make it's target. The friends and families of the dead.

Well, I don't need to go on. You ALL know the story, as I'm sure it's seared into your memory just like mine. I'm also pretty sure you will remember just how helpless you felt watching it all unfold in the coming days and weeks.That was a defining moment, forever changing our lives. And watching it all unfold once again today, bringing it all back.

As long as I live, the events of that day will haunt my memories.



  1. As always, you do such a great job of putting your thoughts into words, Matt. I think that EVERYONE older than 5 or 6 will remember exactly where they were and what they were doing on that fateful morning. I was teaching Kindergarten. The kids were at the library and I had a 30 minute prep time when another teacher stopped in and told me that they had heard that a plane had hit the WTC. She was panicky and I remember thinking that it was a weird reaction and that it MUST be a small lost plane. I turned on my TV (no kids in the room) just in time to see the first tower come down - and stood aghast. One of the most difficult days I've ever had at work was to get those innocent 5-yr-olds through that day, playing games, singing songs, and making friends, while horrific thoughts about the attack were flashing in my mind all day. Impossible to forget that feeling of the world as you know it changing forever....

    On a brighter note:
    Happy Birthday Matt!!! Glad you had a good day :) My best birthday wishes I'm sending to you!


  2. Thanks Matt. Nice tribute. I was in Dallas on business, and the class I was teaching didn't start till 9am (10 am NY time) so I watched it all live. Surreal. We were in class when the towers fell, and soon after that the building was evacuated - they evacuated all bldgs over a certain height within a certain radius of major airports - don't remember the details. I didn't get out of Dallas till Saturday morning. I was traveling a LOT that fall, and every time you would go to the airport, there was some new rule, you never knew if the security lines were going to be an hour or 10 minutes - and for a while, everyone was nice - seatmates would introduce themselves, strangers would get together for lunch or dinner. Here's what I remember: for most of the day on 9/11, the estimated death toll was in the 10,000 range, how incredible that it was "only" 3,000. Of course twice that many have now died in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    One more thing: I was originally scheduled to be IN the World Trade Center (50th floor) that day! About 2 weeks earlier, we had a change in schedules and I swapped with a colleague who was there that morning. He did get out safely, walked 7 miles through NYC with muck up to his knees. It changed him forever. (He was also on the beach in Thailand when the tsunami hit!)


  3. It was my day off work, and I was sitting on the sofa drinking my tea and watching the morning news. My teenage daughter had stayed home from school that day not feeling well. To be watching when the second plane hit was shocking beyond expression. I remember, after a while, seeing the top floors of the tower start to tilt a bit, looking off kilter, and said to my daughter "That building is going to fall down". If only someone that could have called for immediate evacuation had noticed -- but although I don't recall how long it was before it actually fell in reality it probably wasn't long enough.

    I was glued to the TV for the next 2 days. I suppose that was the closest I would ever come to experiencing and feeling what my parents had felt after Pearl Harbor and during WWII, and like them, wondering what was next.

    How strange that what came next were two wars that have lasted to this day and, although in the news daily, still seem to be forgotten somehow, don't seem to affect the nation much, even as we say we will never forget.